Muppet Monday: Turkeys and Balloons, Oh My!

This week marks the beginning of one of my favorite times of the year.

Thanksgiving, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, the appropriate time (according to my husband) to begin listening to Christmas music, and this year – a new Muppet feature film.It’s pretty much the most fantastic couple of days ever.

And for that reason, I am going to focus on one of my most-awaited traditions: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Now I’m not sure if it’s because I grew up so close to New York City, but my parents made sure that the parade was on every single year that I could remember until I learned I should probably turn it on myself. I love the huge balloons, the musical performances, and most of all, the first official appearance of Santa Claus!

While the parade signifies, for me and many others, the beginning of the Christmas season, it was actually all started by Macy’s employees in 1924 who wanted to get into the Christmas spirit. It was more of Christmas parade than a Thanksgiving one. That first parade included Macy’s workers dressed as clowns and cowboys, animals from the Central Park Zoo (intriguing), and the music of marching bands (the best!). The parade garnered much attention in the form of 500,000 people and a tradition was born.

Ten years later, Mickey and Minnie made their balloon debuts. (Mickey’s balloon was made over in 1968 and again in 2000, as Sailor Mickey – you’ll see him this Thursday if you tune in!)

During World War II, the balloons, recycled into rubber, were donated to the war.Always the troublemaker, Donald Duck’s hat brim was so filled with water during a rainy Thanksgiving Day in 1962 that the balloon toppled over and soaked people watching.

In 1977, Kermit made his balloon debut in the Macy’s parade. In 1979, he was joined by the Muppet gang (and Jim Henson, riding in the Electric Mayhem bus) to celebrate the release of The Muppet Movie. Throughout the years, Kermit has faced a few challenges. He ripped his stomach in 1985 and tore a hole in that pesky Central Park area in 1991. After that, Kermit was retired from the parade until 2001 , when he returned with a brand new balloon, 15 inches taller than the original; plus he was the parade mascot (which meant he was the plush that Macy’s sold that year — he wore a holiday vest!).

In 1990, Kermit and Miss Piggy drove through the parade to the orchestrations of “The Rainbow Connection” as a tribute to Jim who had just passed away that year. His family rode in a float behind them.
And while it’s not even close to a Christmas carol favorite (and I’m telling you, I’m an expert), Kermit performed “I Believe” in 2008 and 2009 (this time with Disney Channel’s Tiffany Thornton). The song was actually nominated for a Daytime Emmy in 2008 — go figure.

It seems Disney and the Muppets have been a part of the history of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade almost since the beginning. This year won’t be any different. As the parade celebrates its 85th year, look for Kermit, Buzz Lightyear, and Sailor Mickey to tower above the crowds, and also watch for an appearance by the Muppets and a performance by the Newsies cast!

…is it time for the cranberry sauce yet?

Picture Sources: 1, 2-4.

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A book publicist who loves writing about Disney and books, and sometimes Disney books.

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